I am trying to get my yard, flowerbeds and garden ready for winter. What are some of the things that should be at the top of my list to do (and not do)? Rick A., Tulsa
Good question. Many people ask us about this about now. There are many things that we as gardeners can be doing right now to get ahead of old man winter which will soon be knocking at our doorstep. Here are a few:
Seed/re-seed fescue: This is a tough call. Theoretically, the time has passed to do this (up to mid-October) but, if we were to have a mild late fall/early winter, seeds may still germinate. However, if it should turn cold quickly, they will not germinate. Check your weather crystal ball to decide.
Keep leaves off of newly seeded fescue to prevent damage to the sprouts. A great way to do this is to shred them into small pieces using a recycle-type lawn mower.
Mow and neatly edge warm-season grasses (i.e. Bermuda, Zoysia, etc.) before the first killing frost.
Plant container-grown trees and shrubs this month. Fall is generally the best time to plant. At this time the plants have no energy drain to produce leaves and can concentrate on growing a root system until the soil gets cool in winter. They are better prepared for spring growth and summer stress if planted in the previous fall.
Plant cool-season annuals like pansies, ornamental cabbage, snapdragons and dusty miller. It is also not too late to plant tulip bulbs for spring color.
Plant cool-season veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, collards, spinach, radishes, onions, garlic, turnips, beets, and carrots.
Prune herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage; prune vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb as well as blackberries.
Divide/plant peonies, daylilies, ornamental grasses, hostas and other spring-flowering perennials. Dig and store tender perennials (i.e. dahlias, caladiums, etc.) in a cool, dry location. Heavily mulch cannas and elephant ears.
Mulch all beds or plant a cover crop (e.g. rye or vetch) to help moderate soil temperature, increase levels of organic materials to add nutrients, protect the soil from erosion, and suppress weed growth. And, planting legumes in your garden (e.g. clover, field peas) can increase the levels of available nitrogen for garden vegetables next spring.
Pull up all dead plants and remove evasive weeds.
Cover water gardens with either netting or a pond cover to keep out falling leaves.
Remove garden debris to prevent many garden pests and diseases from overwintering in these materials.
Prepare your garden soil for spring by tilling. This will break up weeds and expose otherwise hidden grubs.
Clean up and store garden tools.
But, there are a few things that we should NOT do right now, such as:
Do not trim rose bushes. Given a few warm days that might occur afterwards, those new cuts may spawn new growth which will be readily killed by the first freeze. This can cause an attractive location for disease to enter the plant. Exception: Prune out dead or diseased limbs on trees and shrubs.
Do not plant bare-root trees at this time. Wait for spring.
Do not fertilize warm-season grasses or garden beds. Wait for spring.
For additional help, contact the Tulsa Master Gardeners at 918-746-3701 or visit them at 4116 East 15th Street in Tulsa Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.